Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Report: The Fashion File by Janie Bryant

The Fashion File by Janie Bryant is glued to my hands as we speak. I don't even know how I am typing this. :::gush::: I've made it known before that I have an obsession with the fashion from the show "Mad Men" but now I have a beautiful hardcover book in my possession by the Emmy-winning costume designer herself. The sketches alone make it worth the purchase to me, and this book is going to live with my sewing patterns as inspiration.

The book is full of suggestions on how to take vintage style and use it to enhance your wardrobe, as well as important advice on how to fit your clothes. She talks about essentials for your wardrobe, but also goes decade by decade to show you her inspirations and how you can translate that into your style choices. I opened this book right before I was about to go to sleep, and I ended up poring over it from cover to cover before I could shut my eyes. It's just that beautiful.

Now all I see are 60s-era dresses dancing through my head, and every sewing pattern I buy gives me modification ideas on how I can make them even more vintage-looking.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Band Perry

I'm a bit obsessed with this song by The Band Perry. It's just so beautiful and poetic to me. I could listen to it on repeat all day. They're definitely worth a listen!

"If I Die Young"
If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song


Monday, December 27, 2010

B-town Roundup

I loved my trip home! I just felt like I had the Christmas spirit all around me the whole time. There were so many wonderful things to love about it...

-Nick's English Hut, Yogi's, Lennie's, and Serendipity with old friends, including some Upland Wheat Ale like a good townie
-Cally the cat's 15th Christmas with our family, sitting under the tree just like when we got her for Christmas '96
-listening to Mom and Dad be hilarious, as usual
-FAMILY. Seeing everyone after so long away was wonderful. I'm so lucky to have so much family to fill my life with love.
-Having none of the lottery tickets I got for Christmas be winners... I already spent my luck getting home!
-Two words: Spam Musubi
-Oliver Winery wines... Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chambourcin
-FOOD... all the favorites for the holidays, in Midwest-sized portions
-Presents! Sweaters, accessories, a SEWING BASKET, lots of things I love!
-celebrating Dad's birthday by watching True Grit, because Dad loves a western and Mom loves Matt Damon
-getting my butt kicked in Jazzercise with Mom
-celebrating JM's 28th birthday with Funfetti cake (I can make cakes from scratch, but that's what he wants)
-watching the snow fall, big and fluffy, just in time for a White Christmas!
-buying my first sewing patterns
-shopping with Amy and Mom, a Williams family tradition every time I come home

Every time I come home, I want to stay longer.


Sewing Patterns

Today Mom and I headed to the local fabric superstore to see if we could find anything good on sale. For Christmas, she got me an adorable sewing basket, pinking shears, and all the other little things I need to get started on some projects! I got so much stuff that I'm picking most of it up in January when I come back to get Cally the cat, but I'm looking to finish at least one project before I start working again.

Patterns bought today...

McCall's M5505 Aprons, Simplicity 2884 Dress, New Look 6799 Dress


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mom's Monkey Bread

A delicious treat we enjoyed Christmas morning... recipe as dictated by Mom. :)

-3 tubes of refrigerated biscuit dough
-1/2 tsp + ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/2 c. + ¾ c. sugar
-1 stick margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear each biscuit into fourths. Put ½ c. sugar/cinnamon on a plate and roll each piece until coated with sugar/cinnamon.

In a pan, put 1 stick of margarine, ¾ cup of sugar, ½ tsp. Cinnamon, and melt/stir until mixed.

Spray a bundt pan and start piling biscuit pieces into the pan.

Pour syrup over biscuits.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Move to heat-proof plate and “pick apart like a monkey!”

At the Movies

Movies I've Seen Recently...

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)... LOVED it! But how could I not love it? :::gush::: can't even get into how great it was.

-Tangled... This was an adorable movie. There were annoying parts, the songs were not memorable (it's no Beauty & the Beast), but it was a treat to watch! I was entertained... and I love a Disney princess movie.

-Tron: Legacy... I liked the Daft Punk music, but other than that I didn't understand the hype. I almost fell asleep.

-True Grit... I really liked this one. I'm not always a fan of westerns, but I enjoyed it a lot. Best I've seen since 3:10 to Yuma. If Hailee Steinfeld doesn't get some major nominations for this one, I'd be surprised.

Movies I Want to See...
-Black Swan
-The Fighter
-Country Strong


Friday, December 24, 2010


"Home. I'll go home... After all, tomorrow is another day."
~Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back Home Again in Indiana

They say home is where the heart is, and as someone who has lived all over this planet, home has a lot of meanings for me. It's where I live, but at the same time, Bloomington, Indiana, will always be home for me.

After my Dad got out of the Army, when I was about ten years old, we moved to Indiana, his home state. After a nomadic lifestyle, we were finally settling down. Bloomington, as the place I've lived the longest in my life, will always be home to me. Quirky, both rural/town, friendly, approachable, it's just one of the best towns in the world.

I couldn't be happier to be here for Christmas, for the first time since 2007. There's snow on the ground, gifts under the tree, and that Hoosier Christmas spirit welcoming me home.


Mom wasn't kidding when she said there were enough snow shovels for everyone to help clear the driveway!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Inevitable Kitchen (Near)Fail

As much as I like to cook and post my kitchen triumphs to this blog, inevitably there comes a time that you face the horror of a kitchen fail. Like the time I baked a cake from scratch (take THAT boxed cake mix) but forgot to add vanilla extract (why is this cake flavorless?). Or the time I simply forgot about the cookies I was baking and burned them to a crisp? It happens. And it (nearly) happened tonight.

Tonight I decided that I would attempt Giada De Laurentiis' Chicken Milanese with Tomato and Fennel Sauce. I found the recipe online, then happened upon the episode of "Giada at Home" for it a day later. Serendipity! I recorded the show so I could follow along. Too easy, right? I was all ready to kick it in the kitchen with my girl Giada. (Because we're totally on a first-name basis...)

Things that went wrong with my Chicken Milanese:
(1) I forgot Parmesan cheese. D'oh! I thought I had it in the fridge. No matter, I just added some extra garlic powder to make up for lost flavor.
(2) I lack freakish Giada strength and skill. WHY was it so hard for me to chop that fennel? She makes it look easy! Does she have magic knives?
(3) As I was shaking some Italian spices into the breadcrumbs, the shaker screen fell off and HALF A BOTTLE of spice fell into the crumbs. I had to scoop excess into the trashcan. Such waste.
(4) One of my fennel bulbs was worthless. There was nothing to it but the stalk, the bulb was all green and weird! I didn't know much about it when I bought it, obviously. So I was down a bulb.
(5) I burned myself frying the chicken in oil. How do the TV chefs pull it off? Am I the only one tired of the micro-burns from the popping oil droplets that are magnetically attracted to my arms?
(6) The chicken was burned, but not fully cooked inside. Two of the breasts went into the garbage, and I ended up having to bake the other two to ensure they were safe for consumption.
(7) A cherry tomato squirted all over me when I tried to cut it in half. Like, in my eye. Stupid little tomato...
(8) I was tired. Don't attempt a new recipe when you're tired. It's hard enough to stand in your kitchen for that long, let alone pay attention to what you're doing.

That being said, the tomato and fennel sauce was GREAT. The mascarpone cheese made it so creamy and pretty, and I topped the fried-then-baked chicken with it. Whew!
After I was done making this, I thought I was done with Chicken Milanese for life. But then I tasted it. YUM! JM liked it too. But if I attempt it again, I'm baking the chicken breasts with Shake 'n' Bake instead. The sauce I can handle, those oil-spitting chickens? Not so much.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Baking: Christmas Gifts!

I decided that this year I would give some edible goodies to my friends/coworkers for Christmas, because you know home-baked treats are one of the best gifts! In addition to my red velvet cookies, I made sugar cookies decorated with royal icing (Martha Stewart's recipe) and Whiskey Cakes (BakedBree's recipe). For the whiskey cakes, I used Maker's Mark bourbon instead of Southern Comfort, since Maker's seems to be a favorite of my friends. And, for the record, the liquor does NOT bake off and there's a ton in the frosting. So don't feed it to kids unless you want them to sleep well that night. :)

I found cute little Christmas "takeout" boxes at Target, and wrapped the cakes in plastic with red/green ribbon.

After all that baking, I had big plans to make another new recipe for dinner tonight, but I think we're ordering pizza instead. After spending half the day on my feet in the kitchen, and the dirty dishes that followed, I'm exhausted. But I'm loving the results! Can't wait to take these to work on Monday.


Retro Photo Session!

Yesterday, my friend LK and I journeyed to Atlanta to have a photo session with Pixelette! The road trip alone was an absolute blast, with the two of us singing at the top of our lungs to our iPod playlists, which are virtually identical. Once we arrived, Allison, our photographer, and Lindze, our stylist, made us over in full vintage style for a full day of retro fashion fun! We each got hair and makeup done (complete with false lashes and bombshell lips) and chose three "looks" to play with for our photos. I chose a retro swimsuit/beach look, a '50s housewife, and a Mad Men '60s theme.

I had an absolute blast! I can totally see myself getting into things like cosplay, and this was just super fun. I've wanted to do something like this for a long time, and I love the style of Katy Perry, Dita von Teese, and Mad Men. It's one of the reasons I wanted to start sewing, because I love retro fashion and it's not easy to find those kinds of pieces these days.

I can't wait to see how our photos turned out!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

I love breakfast!

Breakfast foods are my FAVORITE. I could eat an omelette any time of day, brunch is the best meal every invented, and I think the combination of ham, egg, and cheese is heavenly. YUM.

Today was a big day for breakfast. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to eat, then I noticed some leftover hamburger buns from the football party. Georgia is humid, and bread doesn't keep long, so I figured I should use them for something. So I scrambled two eggs and fried them, buttered the buns and added cheddar and ham to make a grilled sandwich of sorts... DELICIOUS. Oh, and I made one for hubby JM too of course. I liked it so much, I might make it again tomorrow!

Then, it was time to make doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts! I found a recipe for Baked Spice Doughnuts on Eat Live Run and was looking to make something to bring to work for breakfast for my friend LK. I didn't have a doughnut pan, so I used a mini muffin pan instead. Everyone at work loved them, though they said since they weren't fried and the shape was wrong they were really muffins not doughnuts. But I maintain that once you take a bite, the shape is meaningless. It's just delicious.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back in the Kitchen

Some of the things I've been cooking up lately, with recipes I've found online...

JLC serves this as one big bake, but since I wanted to make it more of a finger-food, I made individual little baked bries in a mini muffin pan. They were a surprise hit at our Army/Navy party; I thought the brie/raspberry was a little too "fancy" for football food but they disappeared quickly.

SO easy and delicious... the cream cheese frosting is a MUST. Store-bought icing is fine too. I call it my "cheat" cookie because it uses boxed cake mix so I can't quite call it "from scratch." Wouldn't these be adorable Christmas cookies with some green sprinkles on top?

I served this for a group, I skipped the bacon since some people do not eat pork. It was a hit, and super creamy. There's something to be said for skipping the boxed version and doing it up from scratch every one in a while.

I skipped the olives in this recipe, since I was making this for hubby JM/me and we don't really like olives. We served it over sticky white rice instead of jasmine rice, since that is what we had. We both enjoyed it, and it was so quick to make that I was able to whip it up for a weekday lunch. Definitely one I will be using again!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sewing Lessons!

I had my sewing lesson at Fabrika Fabrics in Savannah yesterday, and I am SO glad that I took the class! I knew from the moment I walked into the cozy little shop that I had found the right place to learn to sew. I loved the all-natural, colorful fabrics that they had there, and the retro-inspired patterns and all-around cuteness all over. I wanted to learn to sew with the goal of eventually sewing some of my own clothes, but I needed a class to tell me whether or not it would be something I could get into without the cost of investing in a machine and accessories.

My instructor and one of the shop's owners, Emily, started me off with the very basics: learning to thread the machine. It was a bit intimidating to me, with all the steps, and one of the things I was the most concerned about. But she made it easy, and in the end I felt comfortable with it. She had me practice sewing straight lines, then pivoting, then curved lines, then a myriad of stitching patterns resembling a sewing obstacle course.

Next, we went downstairs to choose fabrics (LOVED this part!) for the tote bag I would be making. She showed me how to cut the pieces, pin the material, and do everything I needed to create my bag. Despite the small imperfections I can see, I am SO happy with the finished product! It's a tote (with small interior pocket) that I love and as dorky as it sounds, I'm proud of it.

After the class, I ordered my first sewing machine (very similar to the one I learned on!), and I cannot wait for it to get here. Emily suggested I start with a skirt as my first clothing item, which is very exciting as I would love to be able to make some fun, patterned skirts. My big goal, which Emily says is achievable, is to make a Hawaiian-print halter dress to wear to my friend LC's Polynesian-themed rehearsal dinner. Wish me luck!


Monday, December 13, 2010

A Gleek Peek: "A Very Glee Christmas"

I know I'm way late in my review of the latest Glee episode, but since there won't be a new one until February, I figured I had a little time. I've been relaxing at home and only blogging minimally, but I'm feeling ready to get back in the game!

The latest Glee episode is the Christmas episode, filled with songs that I love from the Glee Christmas album! I really liked this episode, especially coming off the heels of one that I didn't care for so much. I'm a sucker for cheesy Christmas songs, and I even enjoyed the storyline of Brittany's quest to help Artie walk through her belief in Santa Claus. Sue's Grinch storyline was great too, as she is the quintessential Grinch of McKinley High. I really felt like it was tied together well, and the old spirit of Glee was there for me in the way the kids were all close and working together for something good, unlike the way they were for Sectionals.

As for the music, I loved it all. But today I will leave you with Rachel singing "Merry Christmas Darling," a song that is so sweet you'll want to play it on repeat as you're curled up on the couch by the fire drinking your cocoa.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Report: Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

I recently finished reading Portia de Rossi's memoir recounting her long struggle with eating disorders, Unbearable Lightness. After finishing Hungry by Crystal Renn, I wasn't sure I was up for another celebrity book on body image and eating, but I love Portia de Rossi, as well as her wife, Ellen Degeneres. My friend DD introduced me to Portia via the hilarious show "Arrested Development" this year, though I recognized her as part of the "Ally McBeal" cast.

As someone who has admittedly struggled with weight and self-image issues, these books open my eyes to the dangers of disordered eating and unhealthy means of becoming a certain body ideal. Portia's struggle started at a young age, when she started modeling, and a few pounds quickly turned into a few dozen. Her controlling tendencies in terms of what she could eat (300 calories a day, if that, like plain yogurt mixed with Splenda) and her amount of exercise (sprinting stairs in heels because she worried the 60 calories she ate would show up on film) were extremes. As I read, I felt I was actually watching her weight dwindle... 125, 100, 89, 82. At the worst part of her disorder, she was near organ failure, and showing signs of osteoporosis and cirrhosis. It almost made me feel guilty, reading like a spectator to her struggle and decline.

All in all, it made me reevaluate how I feel about myself. Body dysmorphia is a real thing, and it affects celebrities and non-celebrities alike. With brave women like Portia de Rossi and Crystal Renn, beautiful women we see in ads and magazines every day, it helps someone like me put it all into perspective. We should never hurt our bodies to conform to a societal expectation of what we should look like. Every time I think about skipping a meal because it makes my stomach stick out, or consider purging after an emotional binge, I think about their stories, and it makes me stop. We need to love ourselves, learn to love and appreciate food, and love how we look with or without a few extra pounds here and there. We need to be healthy. And we need to help each other be healthy too.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

What She Wore

The other day, as I was reading PurseBlog, I discovered a new blog that I fell in love with: What I Wore. The author, Jessica, blogs daily about what she's wearing. A simple concept, but presented in such a great way! I love how she puts an entire ensemble together, styling from head to toe. She says on her blog, “I truly believe that the clothes we wear can affect our moods as well as the impressions we give of ourselves to others. Looking your best doesn’t need to cost a lot of money - just a little imagination.” She has some sponsors, so she does feature a lot of their clothes, but among her sponsors is one of my favorite clothing sites to peruse:! Jessica has a vintage, boho style that I really dig, and I get so many ideas from her.

Another reason I love her? She lives in my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. I enjoy trying to pick out the locations of her photos... Kirkwood! IU Art Museum! Jessica shows that fashion sense and styling are accessible and something we can all do, if we take the time. If I ever see her around B-town, I'll be sure to go up to her and tell her how much I love the site!


Friday, December 3, 2010


I made a wonderful discovery, a website I had never seen before:! I received an e-mail from Hungry Girl with some gift ideas for Christmas, and lo and behold I happened upon this most adorable and cool shopping site!

Some of my
favorite things? Measuring cups in the form of Russian nesting dolls, a glass jar made to look like a ziploc bag, nested prep bowls, and collapsible (disherwasher-safe!) water bottles! There were so many cute and clever things on this site that I went gaga over it for hours. So much color! Interesting inventions! Did I mention the CUTE-ness???

Check it out, shopaholics! :) My new favorite for quirky gifts after Uncommon Goods.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Gleek Peek: "Special Education"

"You are as brilliant and talented as you are irritating." -Kurt, to Rachel-

Okay, so I felt like this week's Sectionals episode was a bit underwhelming. I mean, the Sectionals episode last year was a climax of the season... this one felt like a failed denouement. I thought that Finn's secret hookup with Santana would be carried out differently, and while I'm a huge "Puckleberry" fan I don't buy Rachel's revenge. I also think the Tina/Mike + Artie/Brittany drama was unnecessary and distracting. Finn and Rachel are a central couple and need to have ups and downs to keep it interesting for the show, but this seemed hurried and silly. That, and Emma, Miss OCD and Neurotic, has a Vegas wedding to Carl? Unconvincing. After the emotional pulls of the previous episode, this drama all felt kind of fake. And Sectionals ending in a tie? Come on. I know we want the Warblers to continue to make appearances in the show, but that was silly.

Anyone confused by my crazy Gleek rambling yet? Because that's how I felt after I watched this episode: lost and confused.

That being said, my favorite performances of the night was Rachel/Kurt singing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" and Mercedes/Tina belting "Dog Days Are Over." In fact, "Dog Days" is my new anthem for the week. Also, Rachel and Kurt's scenes were really sweet and touching. I feel like Rachel is finally growing up a little, and I like it.


Hermione who?

Three Reasons I Love Emma Watson:

1. She plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, my favorite character. She's been playing the part since she was 10 years old, and she embodies everything I thought Hermione should be. I forgave her years ago for stealing the coveted role from me, as I must acknowledge that I was too old and lacked a convincing English accent for the part. The role made her one of the world's highest-paid actresses, giving her a fortune at her fingertips. And yet, she's amazingly down-to-earth.

2. She makes being smart look cool. Instead of being snapped by the paparazzi as another child star wild child, she enrolled at Brown University. She took a break for filming, but she's now in her sophomore year and fully intends to graduate.

3. She's fashion forward and fearless. After being forced to keep her hair long and curly for the role of Hermione, she cut it all off after the movies were done filming. Bold move, and it looks adorable! She's a fashion muse for designers, and has been feature in a great campaign for Burberry that I love poring over. She's also into design herself, teaming with the company People Tree which focuses on Fair Trade and organic clothing.

Emma is featured in December's issue of Marie Claire. I loved the fashion spread, but the article is the best part! Check it out on your local newsstand.

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